The Senate has voted both to exclude ZTE tech from government contracts, and additionally to restore trade sanctions on the Chinese telecom that President Donald Trump had Commerce lift, citing his meeting with the Chinese president and a potential loss of Chinese jobs.
The ZTE smackdown was an amendment to the just passed Defense Bill. The already-passed House version also has an amendment disallowing ZTE tech from government contracts, but did not restore the trade sanctions, so that will have to be resolved in conference before a vote on a final bill.
After ZTE allegedly failed to comply with the terms of a settlement over illegally shipping telecom equipment to Iran and North Korea, Commerce banned U.S. companies from exporting their technology to the company for seven years. Not long after, the U.S. also banned the sale of phones from ZTE and Chinese telecom manufacturer Huawei on U.S. military bases.
But after a meeting with China, the President directed Commerce to help ZTE.
“Since the Administration has failed to listen to warnings from their own top intelligence officials about the dangers posed by Chinese telecom company ZTE, this legislation includes a bipartisan amendment – which I co-sponsored – to automatically reinstate trade restrictions on ZTE once this bill is signed into law," said Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), ranking member on the Senate Intelligence Committee. "Importantly, this legislation would also ensure that neither ZTE nor Huawei will be eligible for government contracts in the future."
Huawei is another Chinese telecom identified as a potential security threat.
Support for restoring the trade sanctions was also registered by a bipartisan quartet of senators in a joint statement: “We’re heartened that both parties made it clear that protecting American jobs and national security must come first when making deals with countries like China, which has a history of having little regard for either," said Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Tom Cotton (R-Ariz.), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.). "It is vital that our colleagues in the House keep this bipartisan provision in the bill as it heads towards a conference.”
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